How to create a vertical garden
Don't just think horizontally if planning a garden, you can also go up the wall, says Leigh Hunt Principal Horticultural Advisor at thre RHS. Vertical gardens are not just a visual delight, but also great for the environment and wildlife.
As you travel around our towns and cities, there’s one notable trend on the rise. Vertical gardens, which are also known as green walls, can be seen transforming harsh concrete and brick walls into appealing, planted surfaces. And it’s not just a fashion for RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s being increasingly seen on building developments such as on Victoria Street in London and even on the side of M&S in Norwich.
Apart from the visual appeal, green walls are great for the environment. They increase biodiversity by providing habitat and food for wildlife and help reduce flooding by intercepting rain. In addition, greened buildings and homes can significantly reduce energy losses as the planting on walls provides thermal insulation of 10-33% - and that could be translated into a saving on your heating bill if you live in an older or poorly insulated property.
To get the benefits at home, there are three options. The first is cheap and simple: grow climbers such as ivy and climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris). As long as you have sound, modern mortar (not lime mortar), they shouldn’t damage the brickwork. Alternatively, grow non-clinging climbers on a trellis or wires, such as clematis, Campsis radicans or wisteria. Prices for this vertical planting begin at £12 for a potted climber, so it’s great for those on a budget.
The second option is to go for an ‘engineered green wall’. This term refers to a series of plastic boxes secured to the wall with a metal frame with irrigation. The result can be a complex tapestry of pattern and colour. While DIY versions are available, this is usually one for the specialists (try TreeBox at www.treebox.co.uk). Prices begin at £200, depending on size and planting used.
Finally, you can create a ‘vertical allotment’ or garden. In effect, a shelving unit is secured next to the wall and containers on each level are used to grow ornamental plants or vegetables. Prices vary, but are cheaper when DIY versions are made from recycled materials.
Whichever you choose, there’s now more reason than ever to try going up the wall.